Interview with J. Ace

I’m so happy to introduce another rocking guerrilla artist-J.Ace from the UK!

J. Ace makes all kinds of faces-from the familiar to the fantastic and then leaves them all around the world to be found and enjoyed. He’s constantly on the move so his art is a mix of faces and places-as well as intelligence and inspiration sprung from these new spaces.

Read on to find out what materials he uses, his philosophy around installation and what motivates his creative drive-not to mention, check out his very cool work.

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Tell us about yourself and art.

I’m J.Ace (you say it like ‘Jase’, most people call me that).

I live in the UK and like to travel, it’s quite evident from my posts – this is probably the biggest source of inspiration to me. Not only where I’ve been before, but creating faces specific to places I am about to visit.

J Ace posing with face of Architect Nicolae Nemciulescu in Bucharest

I have been creative all my life but prior to this mostly graphics, art and illustration (I do magazine editorial and textbook covers as well as published technical illustrations). Sculpting faces I have been doing for only 4 years.

How did you come to start this hobby?
I took an obsessive interest in urban art the moment I went on the London Street Art Tour many years ago!

Look up

I did similar tours in Berlin and Paris shortly after. I then started to plan in street art tours or self-directed urban art walks when I would visit somewhere new (I still do).ny faces of London. Photo by https://instagram.com/rh24rh24?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=q4tapyrfwm09

In the past I would always say to myself ‘one day it’d be cool to be a street artist’…. And that was it, one day I just decided to go for it, and started with wheat pasting and a few sprayed stencils.

The notion of installing objects came a bit later and that has been my preference so far, though they have a tendency to get nicked, haha.

Recognize this one?

My first three faces (really small and simple and badly installed) were in Paris in 2016. This was followed by my first ‘proper installation’ some months later in Belfast. Last time I visited the Cathedral Quarter in the city it was still there, so that’ll be 2 years now.

What purpose or message do you hope your art communicates?

Primarily, enjoyment or humour. Probably never is there a political motivation where I want something to be known.

Ireland

The absolutely best type of response I get is a message from someone saying ‘I walk this path every day and I never saw it before, but now it makes me smile every time I see it’ (that was a real comment from someone in Bristol, which was quite a compliment considering it is the home of Banksy and a major hub of UK and European urban art).

Little Bowie in Brixton, UK

So when my work gets stolen my main disappointment is that one person believes their desire to own it solely outweighs everyone else’s enjoyment seeing it in the street. And because of this it makes me believe they aren’t real fans of street art because they’d leave it; art for all! Then again if it’s on a public wall it’s not protected.

So these are the challenges but also the exciting aspects of street art: Ephemeral. Always change. You never know if something will last a day or a year….

Tell us about your creative process- how you get inspired, what materials you use, how you install (ie. with permission, under darkness?)

Normally start with my sketchbook. The culture or people of the place inspire me. I like characters or icons from those countries or cities.

Bluebrew dog, London

The faces are mixed media: clay, plaster, resin, polymer, adhesive, paint, varnish. I install them with ‘instant hold’ exterior adhesive, but as I mentioned that doesn’t usually stop people taking them after some days/weeks.

This year in Bucharest I put a little vampire face on a wall up high, and a month later it was taken, but someone had lifted a huge chunk of the plaster wall in doing so. They really wanted it!

Edinburgh

To date not a single face has been put up with permission of the wall owner, though some ‘art intervention groups’ have commissioned/sponsored me to make faces for their city and suggested I install them where I want to. I used to put them up at night but now I think it is better to see what I am doing. This also increases the chances of being seen! But that can also be fun.

Bangkok

How many faces have you installed? 
Regretfully, I have not taken count…. But I have photographed them all so I know the date and location, and roughly which ones remain and which have been taken. It would take me a while but I think I’ll count them… watch this space.

The face of Mount Everest!

How many countries?

Same answer as previous…. (I really need to collate all these numbers now). I travel quite a bit, maybe 10-12 times a year. And although I aim to install in every place I go, even if I’ve been before, sometimes it is the case that I will visit somewhere and not be on a street art mission intent to make my mark.

Sri Lanka

Since 2016 I will need to calculate the total cities and countries, but this year alone I can say I will have been to Ireland (N&S), Romania (3 times), France, Monaco, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, China (2 times) and Thailand. And except for Iran I have been to all those listed places many times before.

London

Do you have a favourite face? 
I like all my creations; I would not gift anything to a city that I wouldn’t want on my wall at home!

Artist Yayoi in Tokyo

This is where some people can be misunderstood about street art being mindless vandalism…. I spend a lot of time and care creating something thoughtful for a location. OK, because it is installed without permission it is still ‘defacing’ a wall, but I hope these faces add interest to a place rather than being seen as spoiling it.

Tehran

As a rule I will aim for brick or plastered walls and never stick a face on stone/marble, old architecture, protected buildings, temples/churches etc. As for recent favourites, I do like the ones that resemble people, as they are technically that bit more challenging.

I like my Harry Potter and Voldemort at King’s Cross, and people seem to like when they spot them too as they are on a really long stretch of wall outside the station; Old Boy (his name is Oh Dae-Su) in Cannes; and King Bhumibol in Bangkok.

Harry & He who Must Not be Named: Photo by Ran Peled

The Iranian Ladies I made for Tehran are also very special; they went to Iran two times and contrary to what some have suggested they aren’t about domestic violence but the cultural prevalence of cosmetic surgeries, specifically nose jobs!

Lady of Tehran photo by Artist Black Hand

That project was a very special collaboration with Iranian artist @blackhand.official and I was so grateful we could work together. My experience of Tehran was a good one and it surpassed my expectations! I do like beer though, so that was the only draw back haha. The 0% ones aren’t the same….

How do you make such likeness? Ie your king of Thailand is really impressive.

Thank you! Yes I was really pleased with how it turned out. But I guess that is what being an artist is all about: to be highly observant and be able to capture the essence of someone/something and recreate it in your own style.

Former king of Thailand, served 70 years! King Rama IX

Do you ever make large faces?
Yes, for interiors but not the streets. I have made demons and death masks with huge horns! They would be harder to transport and install, but perhaps also a bigger target to attack or take.

The street sculptors @Urbansolid install life-sized casts of human bodies and even they get wrenched from walls despite the fact they probably use a few tubes of industrial adhesive!

What great advice have you been given or wish you had been told as a new kid on the street art block?
That’s a tough one… I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed what I have done so far, and that includes learning from my mistakes and evolving my style and techniques. Some street artists do like to give out advice though.

Graffiti park, Bangkok

Recently I was contacted by an artist where I placed one of my faces near their work. As you know street art tends to locate in pockets within cities, like how murals or pasteups or stickers would be side to side, so I sometimes (fairly rarely) put my faces near other art.

But it’s a fine line to tread…. this artist advised me not to put my work with theirs; I guess my style is not to their taste, which is acceptable. But for me it was a bit of a shame as I was doing this out of pure inspiration and admiration, not to annoy anyone.

Alien invasion somewhere in England

In any case, i think if you put your art up without permission you don’t own the wall so can’t tell anyone else what to do, haha. I know that certain street artists want to be alone on a wall (perhaps they think it’s a respect thing?) but that others are inspired by it and want to join the party I think they should be flattered and proud that they have such influence. Anyway, that’s what I believe, as long as you don’t go over the top of their work nowhere is off limit!

Shoreditch, London with background art (in action) by Otto Schade

So there you have it-our interview with J. Ace of the UK! You could say he’s de-facing walls, but ‘re-facing’ them seems more appropriate! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your story, perspective and art with us, J. Ace. I doubt that I am alone in feeling totally inspired by your creative energy and the generosity with which you share worldwide.

Be sure to follow J. Ace‘s creative journey online- for his art as well as the reminder to keep your eyes open everywhere you go!

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